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Bird flu could take 10 years to eradicate

Bird flu is entrenched in Asia and it will take up to a decade to rid the region of the deadly virus and declare humans, animals and meat safe from infection, United Nations officials said.
/ Source: Reuters

Bird flu is entrenched in Asia and it will take up to a decade to rid the region of the deadly virus and declare humans, animals and meat safe from infection, United Nations officials said on Tuesday.

More than $100 million would be spent over the next three years on improving the detection and reporting of outbreaks, and in combating the virus, three U.N. health bodies said at the launch of a joint action plan to stop the spread of bird flu.

“The disease is endemic in Asia and it will be here for long,” Joseph Domenech, head of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, told a news conference.

The virus, which arrived in Asia in late 2003, has killed 39 people in Vietnam, 12 Thais and four Cambodians. The World Health Organization has said mutations of the virus might pose a pandemic threat to humans.

Chronically infected Vietnam would need up to 6 years to significantly reduce effects of the H5N1 — the fatal avian flu virus — and another 4 years to resume its poultry trade.

China and Indonesia, which have no human cases of H5N1 but lots of bird and wildlife infections, will also require up to a decade to be free of the disease, the UN bodies estimated.

But less-affected nations such as Laos and Cambodia could bounce back in three years.

The FAO, WHO and the World Organization for Animal Health released their plan to combat the virus at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur. The document was prepared in May and presented first to potential donors to a UN bird flu fund.

“The strategy here relies firstly on better surveillance,” Domenech said.

“The second thing is transparency of the information or official reporting done to us by the affected countries. The third is to use the combination of all tools available, including vaccines, to stamp out the disease.”

Funding to curb virus
Up to $54 million of the $102 million in funding required to fight bird flu over the next three years would be spent in Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos alone, the UN agencies said.

Pakistan, infected with the less dangerous H7 strain of bird flu, will need around $7.5 million.

A total of $22.5 million has been allocated for non-infected countries still at risk, such as Myanmar, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The rest would be spent on diagnosis and surveillance measures throughout Southeast Asia.

China, Malaysia and Thailand, which have lost hundreds of thousands of poultry to the disease, have declined aid.

The United States has indicated it would offer about $25 million for the plan and was likely to sponsor countries such as Pakistan and Vietnam, the U.N. report said.

The Netherlands has provided $250,000, with Indonesia to be the likely beneficiary. Finland has also indicated an unspecified sum for Indonesia.

Japan and South Korea have said they would contribute resources to other regional activities to curb the virus.